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Computer security experts: Dutch hackers stole Gulf War secrets

March 25, 1997 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ Dutch computer hackers stole U.S. military secrets during the Persian Gulf War and offered them to Iraq, computer security experts for the United States said Monday.

The secrets could have altered the course of the war, the BBC claimed in a television documentary Monday that first reported the computer break-in. But the Iraqis allegedly never used the information, fearing a hoax.

The hackers, using the Internet, allegedly pilfered information from 34 U.S. military sites.

Workers at the U.S. Department of Energy and other U.S. government agencies detected the hacking soon after the United States deployed troops to end Saddam’s August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, said Eugene Schultz, who worked as a contractor for the energy agency as the manager of a computer security team.

Washington learned in October 1990 that the information was being offered to Iraq, Schultz told the BBC and The Associated Press.

Schultz said the stolen secrets included U.S. troop movements, their weapons and performance specifications of the Patriot missile.

Contrary to the BBC report, however, the stolen information was not compromising, Schultz told the AP on Monday.

``There was a lot of data not protected and it got plundered,″ Schultz said. ``But none of it was top secret.″

Phil Cybert, the computer security manager at the U.S. Department of Energy, confirmed that Dutch hackers broke into the computer system but said it was unclear how sensitive the information was.

``We could see where they were going,″ Cybert told The Associated Press. ``I don’t know there was any classified info ever compromised by the hackers, because classified networks are not connected to the nonclassified sites.″

Schultz told the AP that it had been ``one huge mistake″ to store the military secrets on Internet-capable machines.

``The problem is that you can’t lock down computer systems,″ Schultz said. ``Information stored on computer is often too accessible to those who shouldn’t see it.

``The story really is another confirmation that valuable information is too easy to get to by unauthorized people,″ he added. ``The lesson learned is to isolate or encrypt information like this.″

The Dutch hackers, traced by Schultz and the FBI to Holland, were never prosecuted, although U.S. authorities have identified them, Schultz said.